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Images from Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! by Demi, copyright 1997.
From The Asian Reporter, V14, #4 (January 20, 2004), page 14.
All new beginnings
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!
Crown Publishers, 2003
Hardcover, 24 pages, $8.95
By Josephine Bridges
"It’s spring! The Chinese New Year falls during China’s springtime." Here in the Pacific Northwest, where we’ll be slogging through winter for another couple of months, it’s good to know that spring has already arrived in China, where the "Chinese New Year celebrates the season for planting, as well as all new beginnings."
Demi’s jewel of a book is aimed at children aged four to eight, and it encourages them to observe the Chinese New Year in their own special ways. "Make a fresh start!" she exclaims. "Wash your hair and get a new haircut. Buy some new clothes. Pay the debts that you owe and collect what is owed to you! Catch up on your homework!" Her intricate miniature illustrations are lavish depictions of children preparing for and celebrating a wonderful holiday.
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! is a great book for adults and children to read together, particularly the list of special New Year foods and what they symbolize. "Mandarin cakes, Sa-ch’i-ma," for example, "represent all wishes fulfilled."
"Pop! Pop! Pop!" Little ones are bound to enjoy the firecrackers, which, when lit in front of houses, scare evil spirits away. "When the evil spirits have been scared away, the door guardians will make sure that the house is safe." Two door guardians, Yu-chih Kung and Ch’in Ch’iung, are beautifully portrayed.
Happily for all, Chinese New Year celebrations last for more than two weeks after "special gifts like melon seeds, flowers, candied fruit, and New Year’s cakes" are exchanged on New Year’s Day. "For three to five days of the New Year, there are Lion dances in front of stores to scare away evil spirits." If there are any evil spirits left lurking, the Lantern Festival, celebrated from the 13th to the 15th day of the New Year, "is the time to light all the lanterns. The evil spirits are scared away by the bright lights and by the firecrackers." Dragon dances "with drums and horns and happiness" begin on New Year’s Day and continue for the next 15 days. "Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai! Happy New Year!"